Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Talking About Games reviews

A few weeks ago, Abraham Zetina of the Talking About Games YouTube channel asked for some review copies of the Adventures Dark and Deep books.

I dutifully sent along the pdfs, and he's come out with a series of very nice, in-depth reviews of the three core rulebooks. He's got quite a number of other informative and interesting videos on the channel as well; I recommend checking it out.

In the meantime, here are the three reviews collected in one place for easy viewing...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Why no Nations in Gamma World?

I've been doing a little preliminary work on my massive Gamma World/Metamorphosis Alpha/Gammarauders/Gamma Knights (new element!) campaign, and something occurred to me.

Why in the Gamma World default campaign setting, does it seem like there aren't any large nations? We're centuries past the Big Oops, but it still seems like the only signs of civilization are tiny little hardscrabble villages and towns like Far-Go. There doesn't seem to be any sense of a trade network and the communications that go with trade, no religions (!!!), and no governments that extend farther than the size of a city-state.

Now, maybe this is something that's dealt with in later editions of the game (you know me, I stick with older versions of stuff whenever I can), but it seems entirely unlikely that in the centuries since the bombs fell, government hasn't spread past the tiny village stage.

This seems doubly unlikely given the fact that we have the cryptic alliances out there, supposedly spanning the world (or at least the North American continent). How are they organized? If they have agents in those hardscrabble villages, how do they communicate with one another if there aren't any trade routes?

For that matter, why aren't there any nations? Have them separated by hundreds of miles of mutant-haunted wastelands, but surely there should be cities, and land to feed the cities, and towns to collect the produce of the land, and so forth. And with that comes manufacturing, at least at some level. Sure, maybe the secrets of the Ancients have been lost, and nobody knows how to make powered armor or artificial intelligence any more, but firearms should be easy enough.

The first edition rulebook does give this question some attention:
There should be a minimal number of cities in GAMMA WORLD, as there are simply too few survivors, and there hasn't been time though, since the Shadow Years, for any great new cities to have grown. All of the old cities lie in radioactive ruin, or have been completely obliterated or swallowed up by the rising seas. What cities there are will generally be situated on a coast or river, and are near the few remaining robot farms (explained later). City populations should range between 5,000 to 50,000 humans, mutants, intelligent plants. etc.
In both the first and third editions of the game, the interval from the holocaust to the present day is 170 years or so. I submit that, population or no, that's enough time for someone to extend their influence beyond the boundaries of a city-state, especially if they have populations reaching 50,000.

These nations needn't be too large, but even a city of 50,000 humans is going to need farmland, and that farmland needs villages to support it. Assuming there aren't any handy robotic farms or computerized food factories handy.

I think adding that level to Gamma World would be a terrific way to add a whole layer of play to a campaign. Not only do you have local authorities, and agents of the cryptic alliances, but there are also (probably distant) rulers who have to be taken into account. And naturally those rulers go to war on occasion, which gives an excuse to have your bioborgs and associated popcorn assault an enemy town. It would also give those cryptic alliances a sandbox in which to pursue their schemes. I kinda like the idea, and will be incorporating it into my long-dreamed-of campaign.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

One Giant Leap

On this day in 1969, American Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. What an achievement of the American spirit and the human will. Let us follow up this great achievement and spread humanity to other worlds.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Review: Ant-Man (spoiler free)

I saw the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man today. As a rule, I don't do 3D, so I caught a showing that was plain old 2D. I promise no puns about things being small.

I have to say, after the BIG BOOM BOOM show that was Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man was something of a palette-cleanser, which is suitable for the final film in Phase II of the Marvel Master Plan (mua-ha-ha). It's a much more personal movie, with only two big fights, and it's probably the second funniest Marvel movie after Guardians of the Galaxy.

The basic plot, shown in the trailers, is that ex-con Scott Lang takes on the mantle and suit of Ant-Man, and needs to stop the villain from developing a similar technology for military purposes.

You have probably heard that this is a "heist film" and it is structured that way, but first and foremost this is a comedy. Michael Peña steals every scene he's in, as Scott's idiotic and over-eager ex-cellmate, and most of the characters in the film know that "ant-man" is a ridiculous idea. And that very self-deprecation is one of the things that makes it work. I liked the character arcs that we saw Hank Pym, his daughter, and Paxton go through, although it did seem like Scott himself was pretty much the same guy he was at the beginning of the film. Which is okay, but in a movie like this a little character growth from the titular character was sort of expected.

The film is firmly tied to the rest of the Marvel universe, moreso than many other films we've seen. There are all sorts of call-outs, both subtle and hit-you-over-the-head unsubtle, to things and characters we've seen in other films and television shows. And look for a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance by Saturday Night Live alum Garrett Morris driving a car. I don't know why, but that really made my day.

As might be expected, the effects are so seamlessly well done it's almost not worth mentioning at this point. But a special call-out to the de-aging effects used on Michael Douglas at the very beginning of the film. It's like they actually filmed it 25 years ago and just kept it in the can until they were ready to make the rest of the movie. Amazing. And the ants... the ants are filled with personality, if that can be believed. Beautiful to watch on the screen. The shrinking effects are similarly well-done, and you get a real sense of the vertigo-inducing weirdness it must induce to actually be in the ant-man suit.

On the whole, this is quite a worthy entry. It's no Avengers, but it's not meant to be. It's a very funny, very well-put-together film. Definitely better than some of the more strained sequels we've been seeing in the MCU lately, and it is well-served by the relative toned-down pyrotechnics.

Also, there are two helpings of schawarma at the end. Make sure you stay through to the very end of the credits.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Step Right Up and Spin the Wheel!

Lately, it seems that every year there's some sort of politically correct outrage coming on the heels of GenCon. This year, with GenCon slightly more than two weeks away, I thought I'd save everybody the trouble and just let the SJW's take a spin on the Wheel of Outrage to figure out what they should be offended by this year, and save some time and trouble. So put up yer nickle and you may win fame and fortune! Well, fame anyway...

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Last summer and fall, I went through a big spate of painting some old-school figures; mostly Grenadiers, but there are Ral Parthas, TSRs, Citadels, Minifigs, and others in there as well. I finally got around to painting them, mostly because I'm about to start another round of painting, and wanted to get a look at what I had already done. Some are specifically Greyhawk by the paint job, most are just generic, following the description in the Monster Manual wherever possible.. I'm not a great painter by any stretch, but I'm pleased with the way most of them came out.

A bunch of Baklunis from the Sultanate of Zeif

Gnomes (presumably from the Gnarly Forest)


Warriors of Celene

Monks of the Scarlet Brotherhood


I'm particularly pleased with these. Every time I'd buy some
Grenadier figures, they'd come with yet another one of the
flag-bearer skeletons. So now I have one for the Horned Society,
one for the Scarlet Brotherhood, one for Iuz, and one for the
Temple of Elemental Evil.

The whole bunch. Doesn't include pre-painted plastic figures.

Pig-faced orcs, which you've seen before.

On the whole, I'm quite happy with the lot so far. And many more to come.

Monday, July 6, 2015

New arrival: 2WW by One Small Step

One Small Step games, publishers of the redone Ares magazine (that comes with a game in every issue) just came out with "a small foot-print, moderate complexity game of the entire Second World War in Europe" called 2WW. The back of the box says solitaire suitability was high and the complexity is low/medium, so I took a gamble. It arrived today and looks terrific:

Sort of like Third Reich but playable in an evening (or, you know, playable at all). It's only got a single half-sized counter sheet, and the rules are only 14 pages. I'll try to give it a test spin in the next week or two and report back, but it looks pretty nifty straight out of the box.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Birthday, America

No apologies. No soul-searching. We're the best nation on the planet, and I'm not ashamed of it.